Low-key budget protest at SSU
Published: Wednesday, March 2, 2011 at 7:09 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, March 2, 2011 at 7:09 p.m.
Daniella DiPol, a fifth-year senior at Sonoma State, is closing in on graduation. But despite her impending exit, she's fired up about fighting another round of cuts facing the state's public universities.
She and a small cast of supporters set up tents in the middle of SSU's campus Wednesday, joining a Day of Action at schools across California to protest major cuts slated to soon hit higher education.
“I don't want this for my brother,” said DiPol, president of Students for Quality Education. “I don't want this for my own children.”
The protests were focused on $500 million in proposed budget cuts facing the California State University, an 18 percent reduction. The University of California system is facing a similarly stark reduction.
SSU's share of the pain is estimated at $7.5 million, but the school's loss could be double that amount if Californians don't vote to extend certain taxes in June, assuming they get the chance to, SSU officials said.
For SSU students, it's just another round of bad news. In November, the California State University Board of Trustees approved a 15 percent tuition hike, the latest in a string of annual increases.
Natalie Gray, a sophomore English major, stopped by the protest, picking up a pin saying “The CSU is the Solution.” Many students don't feel there's a point to protesting, she said of the small showing. But she said it was worth the effort.
“If they don't know we're upset, they're not going to change it,” she said.
Numerous students, staff and faculty cited concerns that $11 million in budget cuts at SSU over the past five years have made it more difficult for students to graduate on time and get the classes they need.
It's difficult to find statistics to bear that out, however. SSU couldn't immediately supply data on the changes to the number of classes offered in the past several years. But the student/faculty ratio last fall was 22.7, as low as its been since fall 2007. The average class size was 28.1, also a three-year low. Enrollment has dropped slightly from 2007, from 7,977 to 7,585 in 2010.
And, this spring, the average student is carrying 13.79 units, close to the 15-units that comprises a full load. At that average, a student would be about 10 credits short of graduating after four years.
“It's extremely unusual for almost every student to be almost taking a full-load,” said Marilyn Sargent, SSU's director of institutional research. “They couldn't have done that if the course weren't available.”
Still there has been a drop in the number of faculty members. In fall 2010, the school had the equivalent of nearly 335 full-time faculty, a six percent drop since the peak of 2008.
So far many students have been able to navigate the reductions in budget and staffing by taking classes when they might otherwise have chosen not to, such as in the early morning or on Friday, said Susan Kashack, SSU's associate vice president for marketing and communication
But going forward, cuts will prove harder to compensate for, she said. Regardless of whether the cuts mean a loss of $7.5 million or $15 million, it's going to be difficult, she said.
“To lose almost $15 million would be challenging to say the least,” she said.
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